Family films to see at the cinema
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
Instant Family (12A)
Married house restorers Pete (Mark Whalberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) Wagner are persuaded by social workers, Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) to think about adopting three Hispanic kids, teenager Lizzy (Isabela Moner) and her younger siblings Juan and Lital. With neither Ellie’s mother (Julie Hagerty) nor the rest of her family believing they can handle it, she and Pete resolve to give fostering try and prove they can be good parents. Naturally, this is more difficult than than thought since Lizzy, while sweet, has plenty of attitude and is protective of Juan and Lita, both of whom have their own issues. And just when things seem to be going well, the kids’ real mother turns up wanting them back. Also starring Margo Marindale as Pete’s good-hearted but overbearing mother, it’s predictable and a bit rude in places, but it’s also heartwarming and an often very funny tale of family bonding. 119 mins
The Kid Who Would Be King (PG)
Opening with an animated telling of the legend, this contemporary teenager rework of the King Arthur story is set against a divided Britain teetering on collapse (newspaper headlines read WAR! GLOOM! FEAR! CRISIS!), as, running into a London building site to escape the school bullies, Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) and Lance (Tom Taylor), ordinary 12-year-old schoolboy Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) stumbles upon and pulls a sword out of a block of concrete.
Peppered with Arthurian references (Alex’s three friends all share names with the original Knights and he lives in Mallory close, named after Thomas Mallory who wrote the poem Morte d’Arthur), including several appearances by the Lady in the Lake (or at least her hand), it mixes together the special effects and action sequences (climaxing with a school battle as all the pupils don souvenir shop armour to battle the undead with their flaming swords) with laughs, emotional setbacks and messages about family, friendship and unity in time of trouble and strife.
It may not have their fanfare and budget but it’s undeniably a Camelot of family fun, even if the ingredients in Merlin’s recipe for restoring his energy may put you off junk food for a while. 120mins
LGWTC guidance: It’s Grange Hill by way of Star Wars with an enchanted sword instead of a light sabre
Alita: Battle Angel (12A)
Aimed at a slightly older audience this live action/motion capture manga is set in the 26th century, 300 years after the collapse of society in a major war. Here, cyborg technology is a way of life, and that’s exactly what Alita (Rosa Salazar) is, a robotic body with an organic human brain. Found by the mysterious Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) while out searching for cyborg parts, who repairs her and becomes a surrogate father, she cannot remember who she is, or where she came from. Her purpose though is to break the cycle of death and destruction battling against killer cyborgs, such as Zapan, while trying to uncover the truth of her real identity.
LGWTC Guidance: A coming of age girlpower sci fi. It’s too dark, violent and scary for younger kids, but anime and action fan tweenagers should love it
The LEGO Movie 2 – The Second Part (U)
Five years after the evil Duplo invaders turned Bricksburg into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, an intergalactic invader named General Sweet Mayhem from the Systar System in outer space comes to the Earth and joins forces with the Duplo invaders to take over the Legoverse in the name of her ruler, Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). When Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman), Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie), and Benny (Charlie Day) are kidnapped, Emmet (Chris Pratt) must travel into space to rescue them and restore harmony to Bricksburg and the rest of the Lego Universe.
Featuring cameos by Aquaman Jason Momoa), Superman (Channing Tatum), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and introducing galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy and raptor trainer Rex Dangervest (Chris Pratt sending up his roles in Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy), this promises to be every bit as much fun as the original.
LGWTC guidance: Brick it on
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG)
The third and final part of the saga finds the misfit Vikings and their dragons in Berk having to seek out a new place of sanctuary when they’re confronted by poacher pirates and Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), who’s determined to hunt down and exterminate every last Night Fury. Jay Baruchel returns to voice Hiccup whose connection with the bat-winged Toothless takes on a new dimension when they discover he’s not the last of his kind. Instead, there’s a sparkling white female dragon, dubbed a Light Fury by Astrid (America Ferrera) who has powers to travel to the hidden world of the title and for whom Toothless naturally falls.
Reprising such characters as show-offy Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Hiccup’s widowed Dragon Rider mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), the twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple) and Gobber (Craig Ferguson) as well as a flashback of Hiccup’s father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), this promises to see the series out in fine style. 1hr 44 mins
LGWTC Guidance: A fond and stirring farewell to the dragons’ den
Mary Poppins Returns (U)
Fifty-four years on since Julie Andrews helped a spoonful of sugar go down, director Rob Marshall dips back into the bowl for a sequel that’s sweet rather than saccharine,with a bunch of new songs, echoes of familiar notes and a winning turn from Emily Blunt as the magical, umbrella-flying nanny who returns, 20 years on from the original, to again help the Banks children. The time is Depression era London and, recently widowed, Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw), a teller at his dad’s old bank faces losing the family’s Cherry Tree Lane home to two-faced bank Chairman Wilkins (Colin Firth) unless he can repay his loan before the midnight deadline. The good news is that his late father had shares in the bank, the bad news is they can’t find the certificate to prove it.
As gloom hangs over him, a sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) and his three children, Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanel Saleh) and Georgie (a scene stealing Joel Dawson), so their former nanny flies back in and sets about putting magic back into their lives and helping to save the day. There’s no sweeps around this time, but she does have a cheery helping hand in the form of Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), one of the London lamplighters or ‘leeries’.
Adopting an exaggerated English accent and with a more worldly demeanour, Blunt is a delight and proves an adept song and dance hoofer, especially in such set pieces as the big circus number with the animated animals and the leeries’ Trip The Light Fantastic production number, all bicycle wheelies and acrobatics around lampposts. The songs aren’t quite as catchy as in the original (from which several musical cues and references surface), though The Royal Doulton Music Hall and A Cover Is Not The Book are standouts along with the poignant The Place Where Lost Things Go.
Although following an almost identical structure to the original, its homage rather than pastiche, and while Meryl Streep’s hammy scene as Mary’s eastern European- accented cousin Topsy is a bit of a sore thumb, and, given she can fly, it makes no sense for Poppins to let the leeries do the dangerous climbing in the climactic sequence, these are compensated by a brief but sparkling cameo by Dick Van Dyke as Mr Dawes Jr and the sheer whimsically exuberant high-spirits and its old fashioned heart-tugging glow.
LGWTC guidance: As Mary says, it’s practically perfect in every way.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (PG)
Spider-Man (Chris Pine) is dead, killed by the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). His death’s been witnessed by Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a biracial 13-year-old whose cop dad (Brian Tyree Henry) has sent him to a posh boarding school where he has no friends. On top of which, while practising his graffiti art in the abandoned underground facility his black sheep uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) took him to, he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Next thing he knows, his hands keep sticking to things – walls, the hair of new girl in school – and he keeps getting tingling sensations when things are about to happen, and having a internal monologues, flashed up on screen like comic book captions.
At which point enter Peter Parker. Or, rather, Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson), the Spider-Man from a parallel dimension who has rather let himself go. He’s been hurled into Miles’ world by the super-collider which Kingpin is hoping will restore his dead wife and son, where he grudgingly agrees to coach Miles, who, kitted out in a Spider-Man fancy dress costume, has vowed to avenge the dead Spidey and foil Kingpin’s plans, in the art of being a webslinger.
However, this Parker’s isn’t the only parallel Spider-Man. There’s also Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfield), the cloaked Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) from a black and white dimension, Peni Parker (Kimoko Glenn), a Japanese anime girl who’s bonded with a Spidey-bot and even talking pig Peter Porker aka Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Together, with a helping hand from a feisty Aunt May (Lily Tomlin), they determine to defeat Kingpin, his henchmen, Doc Ock, the Green Goblin, the Scorpion, the Prowler and Tombstone, and destroy the collider before they and their worlds blink out of existence.
It’s a wild animated and attitude-fuelled ride that rushes along like a psychedelic whirlwind, mirroring the Lego movies in its knowing in joke comic book conventions, complete with repeated voice over origin flashbacks. However, in-between the laughs and the action, it also finds room for Marvel’s trademark emotional heft in Miles’ struggle with insecurity and family tribulations, plus there’s another animated Stan Lee cameo to bring a tear to the eye. 116 mins.
LGWTC guidance: Spider-Man has you’ve never seen him/them before, this is fresh and fabulous fun.
Introduced in last year’s Justice League movie, Aquaman gets his own solo outing, at almost two and half hours is as bloated as things get when they spend too much time underwater, only really taking off in the final stretch. On the plus side, unlike the recent DC adaptations, it has a lighter tone, one that Jason Momoa makes the most of as Arthur Curry, the heavily tattooed son of Massachusetts lighthouse keeper Tom (Temuera Morrison) and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the Queen of Atlantis, who washed up on the rocks after fleeing an arranged marriage. They fell in love and she gave birth to Arthur, only to have Atlantean stormtroopers burst in to take her home. Thus, Tom’s left to raise their son, clearly an odd one since he chats to the fish and his eyes kind of glow greeny-yellow.
Meanwhile, Atlanna apparently had another son, Orm (Patrick Wilson), before being consigned to death by sea-monster, who’s all a bit Loki to Arthur’s Thor and wants to unite the underwater kingdoms so he can proclaim himself Ocean Master and wage war on the surface world. The only way to stop him is if Arthur takes up his Atlantean heritage, something red-haired, emerald-clad princess Mera (Amber Heard) has come to persuade him to do, except Arthur would rather hang out in the bar where guys who call him “that fish boy from the TV” want to pose for selfies.
Still,duly persuaded to do the right thing and having been secretly trained as a boy by Orm’s vizier (Willem Dafoe), brother meets brother in ritual combat, before Arthur has to take off with Mera in search of the mythical Lost Trident of Atlan to prove himself the true king and ride into the confusing big underwater battle everyone’s come to see, on a giant seahorse.
Unfortunately, for all Momoa’s charisma, getting there is a laborious slog where the only depth is in the ocean and you feel you’re constantly swimming against the current. 143 mins Also in IMAX 3D
LGWTC guidance: Waterlogged
Bumblebee (PG) – 24th December 2018
Following the abysmal The Last Knight, even the most devoted fan’s heart might have sunk at the prospect of another Transformers movie. Good news then that, with Michael Bay vacating the director’s chair for Travis Knight, who made the award-winning animation Kobo and the Two Strings, and featuring a soulful performance from Hailee Stanfield, this is a real treat, a film with both thrilling action and real heart.
Set in 1987, the Autobots having had to abandon Cybertron, defeated by the Decepticons ,it’s an origin story revealing how, is sent to Earth to set up a refuge, young scout B- lost and regained his ability to speak, how he came to be called Bumblebee and how, before his familiar Camaro mode, he was a battered yellow VW Beetle.
All of which comes about through his bonding with California amateur mechanic Charlie Watson (Steinfield), who, just turned 18, is still mourning the death of her father and doesn’t feel she now fits alongside her mom, younger brother and stepdad as part of the family. Finding the VW in a junkyard, she takes it home to fix and discovers there’s more under the bonnet than meets the eye.
A cocktail of Herbie, the Iron Giant, Big Hero 6 and ET, with Charlie initially hiding Bee, who, his memory wiped, is a puppyish and far more expressive version of his later self, they’re soon joined by fellow fairground worker Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) in battling both Agent Burns (John Cena) and ruthless Decepticons Dropkick (Justin Theroux) and Shatter (Angela Bassett) who want to find and destroy him.
Pitched more at the younger fans, but wholly satisfying for older audiences, it features some awesome CGI set pieces, finely balanced with moments of comedy (a slapstick scene as Bee accidentally trashes Charlie’s house) and teenage life, all bolstered by 80s pop and music. A real transformation. 113 mins
LGWTC guidance: It’s a buzz.
Wednesday 27 February
Fighting With The Family (12A)
Written by Stephen Merchant, who also makes his directing debut, and featuring cameos from Dwayne Johnson as his real-life alter ego The Rock, this is the true story of Saraya ‘Paige’ Bevis (Florence Pugh) who, coming from a family of English professional wrestlers now making a living performing at small venues around the country, dreams of becoming a part of WWE. In the try-outs, however, she has to compete against her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden), who has the same ambitions. Also starring Vince Vaughn as the caustic wrestling coach with Lena Headey and Nick Frost as Saraya’s flambouyant parents, slick, glossy and sometimes crude, it’s a fairly straightforward underdog story with some family conflict and sibling rivalry thrown in for good measure and Johnson taking the opportunity to send himself up. Paige, in fact, went on, in her debut match on the main roster in 2014, to become the WWE’s youngest ever champion. 108 mins
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.